Monday is upon us once again and as we look back at last week’s documentary happenings it seems that PBS’s announcement of its lineup for the 19th season of Independent Lens (via Variety’s Addie Morfoot) should take top billing in this week’s memo. The new season is set to kick of on November 6th, 2017 with John Scheinfeld’s CHASING TRANE and will run through February 26th, 2018, concluding with Peter Bratt’s DOLORES. Among the other selections are Nanfu Wang’s I AM ANOTHER YOU, Theo Anthony’s RAT FILM, Peter Nicks’s THE FORCE, and Jennifer Brea’s UNREST.
As Laura Poitras’s RISK, a complex, often unflattering film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has reached theaters throughout the United Kingdom, it appears that Wikileaks has sent Cease & Desist letters to various distributors of the film, according to Timothy Geigner at Tech Dirt. Despite Wikileaks’s stated mission of open information, the exact wording in the letters were as such, “We therefore demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all images of the Named Participants and that you desist from this or any other infringement of the rights of the Named Participants in the future.” The film was released regardless, gleaning a thorough and thoughtful review from Danny Leigh in Financial Times.
Please forgive my tardiness – it’s been a bit of a busy week for me, trekking from Hot Docs to Rochester’s Nitrate Picture Show at the George Eastman Museum, one of the few venues in the world still able to screen nitrate film prints (now in its third year, the festival showed four docs this year, including Georges Franju’s controversial 1949 short BLOOD OF THE BEASTS). As I type this week’s memo, I’m currently riding shotgun down the interstate on the way to pick up my dog, who had a week long getaway at my mom’s out in rural western New York. Thus, on to doc news!
As Hot Docs began to wind down, this year’s award winners were revealed. Charles Officer’s UNARMED VERSES won Best Canadian Feature, Pau Ortiz’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL was named Best International Feature, Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana’s RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD took home the Audience Award, Asaf Sudry and Tali Shemesh’s DEATH IN THE TERMINAL won Best Mid-Length Doc, and Best Short went to Tamta Gabrichidze for SOVDAGARI. At Doc Soup, Tom Roston outilned his festival finds and the Hot Docs Pitch Forum, while Eli Brown live blogged this year’s pitches at The D-Word and Selina Chignall reported on the ins and outs of Hot Docs funding applications for Realscreen.
Tonight we here at Stranger Than Fiction return to the IFC Center with the latest film from HOOP DREAMS director Steve James, ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL, which tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York, the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Jill Sung, Vera Sung and Chanterelle Sung, several of the subjects featured in the film, will appear for a live Q&A following the film. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
As is sadly the norm for the Cannes Film Festival, this year’s doc lineup was slim, but much anticipated. Following her Oscar winning CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras debuted her long in the works profile of Julian Assange in RISK (formally titled ASYLUM) as part of the Director’s Fortnight. Variety’s Peter Debruge, The Wrap’s Steve Pond, The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard and indieWIRE’s Graham Winfrey each logged their (mostly) positive initial reactions, while Wendy Mitchell and Alex Ritman both spoke with Poitras about her new film for Screen Daily and The Hollywood Reporter, respectively. Jim Jarmusch also brought a new doc to the Croisette alongside his new fiction feature PATERSON in GIMME DANGER, a cinematic look at his longtime friend and collaborator Iggy Pop & The Stooges. David Rooney illustrated the film’s impact most excitingly in The Hollywood Reporter, writing, “Two seminal Stooges album titles — ‘Fun House’ and ‘Raw Power’ — sum up this film’s appeal.” Owen Gleiberman of Variety on the other hand wanted more danger from the film.
In her report for Screen Daily on this year’s Cannes Doc Day event, Wendy Mitchell began by noting that this month marks the 10th anniversary of the world premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s climate change focused, Al Gore starred AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. As it turns out, Grist published an in-depth oral history of the film’s production and release with interviews by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Amelia Urry, Eve Andrews, and Melissa Cronin with Gore and Guggenheim themselves, as well as producers Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, and many more key behind the scenes players. Other festival highlights this week included Daniele Alcinii‘s report at Realscreen that Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON and Brett Story’s THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES were awarded feature doc and Canadian doc prizes, respectively, at the 2016 DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver, as well as Basil Tsiokos’ previews of the non-fiction offerings at both this past weekend’s Seattle International Film Festival and Encuentros del Otro Cine (EDOC), Ecuador’s largest doc festival, which runs through this week.
It is timely that, following the Cannes premiere of RISK, we’ll be screening a sneak peak selection of shorts from FIELD OF VISION, which Poitras co-founded with Charlotte Cook and AJ Schnack and serves as executive producer for, as the next installment of our Spring Season here at Stranger Than Fiction! Both Cook and Schnack will be present for the screening and participating in a Q&A. Tickets available for this special event taking place tomorrow at IFC Center can be purchased here.